SELF HELP RESOURCE - Relationships / Marriage

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"After six months of marriage, Deepa and Rahul had their first big fight. What was the subject? It doesn't matter. While in tears, Deepa called her mother and told her about the entire ordeal. Her mother listened and became angrier by the minute. "I'm coming over there," her mother said. When she arrived at the couple's home, she immediately began telling Rahul why Deepa was correct and scolded him for disagreeing. According to her, Rahul owed Deepa an apology. Rahul felt betrayed because Deepa had ganged up with her mother against him." 

"Suresh and Kavitha had decided that it was time they invested in a house since both of them were earning reasonably well. For months they had discussed how much money they could spare and the location that they wanted to live in. Then Suresh's parents came to stay with them for a while. Suresh discussed his plans with them at length and one day announced to Kavitha that they would not buy a flat after all. His parents had told them that there was no need to waste money on a flat since they could always stay in the family home. When Kavitha protested Suresh joined with his parents in putting down her opinions. All three of them proceeded to criticize her as a spendthrift who did not understand the value of money. Kavitha was hurt and angry that Suresh would change a major decision without consulting her, and this was compounded because he seemed to ‘gang up' with his parents against her." 

 
 

In the above examples, what is missing is the ‘we-ness' a couple needs to share to protect and enhance their marriage and to deal with the in-laws from a common ground. If you and your spouse are arguing about any subject, neither has the right to involve a parent in the disagreement. If your spouse brings a parent in on an argument, you're probably going to feel just as Rahul did; you would feel like it's "them against you". This violates the "we-ness" that should exist in your marital relationship. 

  

But what exactly is this "we-ness"? "We-ness" is a state of togetherness and being in-sync, where the couple is functioning as a team while dealing with conflicts, especially those regarding in-laws. 

One of the purposes of marriage is for a couple to establish an identity that is independent of their parents. If this doesn't happen, a healthy marriage becomes much more of a challenge. In any home, there can be conflicts between family members, particularly with in-laws. Therefore, establishing healthy boundaries with family members early in the marriage would prevent these conflicts from building up to unmanageable proportions. Making efforts to create an independent identity for the couple is very essential as a preventive measure against marital conflicts. 

Investing oneself in learning to improve relationships with in-laws is an effort towards developing the well-being of one's marriage and family on the whole. Often people tend to expect too much from their in-laws and also start the relationship with negative beliefs and attitudes. This makes them anticipate negative responses or see their in-laws through a colored lens. It would help to re-orient oneself to a more positive stance when one is beginning to build a relationship. 

 
Strategies for a Positive Mindset 

• First and foremost, accept that your in-laws aren't your parents. As a result, they aren't likely to have the same ways of doing things or the same sets of rules as their parents did. 

• Realize and accept that you can't change someone else; you can only change yourself. Build better relationships with your in-laws by recognizing your role in any conflict(s). 

• Think of your in-laws as a potential resource to expand your support network. Get to know them by spending time with them, listening to them, and creating a reciprocal relationship where they can get to know you. Try and engage in some social activities that are compatible with your in-laws. 

• In-laws can't relax with each other until they achieve mutual acceptance. Like anything worth having, this process takes time. If you can make it to this stage, you're well on your way to a more stable relationship. 

 
Tips to Get Along with your In-Laws 

Respect 

Be respectful of your in-laws - and make sure you are sincere in giving that respect. 

Loyalty 
 
It is natural that your spouse may feel some loyalty for his/her family. This is only to be expected. After all, if you expect him to be loyal to you, shouldn't he also feel loyalty towards the family who has raised him and whom he has known and loved all his life? And surely you too feel loyalty towards your parents and siblings? Avoid blaming and putting down your in-laws while speaking to your spouse. 

Criticism 

It is better not to criticize your in-laws; instead, just listen to them openly. Making comments and not asking clarifying questions can cause you to assume wrongly and can create problems. 

Boundaries 

Define and set boundaries with your in-laws concerning your feelings, thoughts and expectations about holidays, vacations, visits, time with grandchildren, financial issues, and privacy. 

Make sure that you have open lines of communication - this is particularly important if you are living together in the same home. It might be helpful to have a heart-to-heart conversation with your in-laws explaining your likes, dislikes, and personal boundaries; and give them an opportunity to do so as well. This can help in avoiding any misunderstandings. 

Care Giving 

As your in-laws and parents get older, it is important that you discuss practical concerns with them such as their health and financial issues. Find out their expectations about their care in case they cannot provide for themselves in their later years. 

Handling Conflicts 

If you are experiencing conflicts with your in-laws, talking to your spouse to get their opinion and being solution-oriented is a good thing. However, making your spouse the middle person to solve your conflict(s) with your in-laws is not fair. This is a lifelong relationship with your in-laws; learn to deal directly with them in a pleasant way. 

Whatever happens, remember that your in-laws' actions and motives more likely stem from deep-seated beliefs and behavior patterns than from something you did or said. It's hard to remove yourself from an unpleasant situation, but if an in-law doesn't react positively to a well-intended gesture or comment, don't take it personally. Just smile and let it go when something happens and discuss solutions with your partner later. Choose your battles wisely - compromise on differences that are less important and negotiate those that are more essential. 

Priority 

It's important to honour and respect your in-laws, but above that, protect your marriage. This principle will pay great dividends in the future. As a rule, remember to put your marriage first. This of course applies to both husband and wife. 

  

Remember, building an enriching, supportive and meaningful relationship with your in-laws takes time, consistent effort, love and patience. But it can be one of the most wonderful aspects of your life! 

  

If you would like to discuss this further or need some help or support in this or any other area, our counsellors would be happy to help. 
 
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Latest Comments

AbhigyanA on 26 Jul 2023, 15:47 PM

Great article, healthy communication is key.

narayanakudligi on 28 Aug 2019, 13:38 PM

what is this? merely outlining the symptoms is neither solution the relationship problems nor any diagnosis or treatment. What should be done under those circumstances? How to build up or repair relationships? What is the solution? Just vague article describing what's wrong. Not useful

sairam1990 on 30 Jul 2019, 16:41 PM

Thanks... could you please advise what form of communication can be used to discuss an issue?

renuzzo on 19 Sep 2017, 17:58 PM

If these are to be avoided, then could you also advise what form of communication can be used to discuss an issue?

geekyashish on 03 Mar 2017, 15:10 PM

nice and very useful

kouasda on 28 Oct 2015, 08:52 AM

Awesome article, nicely described and explained. I took a print out of this and showed to my partner and the article helped me to rejuvenate the real picture and label our conversations against criticism, contempt, defensiveness, emotional flooding, stonewalling etc and we're now heading to great understanding and well mannered relationship and regain/recognized the respect for each other.

vijayvictoria on 28 Oct 2015, 08:20 AM

Thank you for this article.